Dental Health for Dogs: Guide to Cleaning Your Dog’s Teeth


Just as it is for us humans, your dog’s dental health is more important than you might realize. Your dog’s oral health serves as a window to his/her physical well-being and overall health. Protect your dog by learning some of the best ways to maintain good dental health. Not only will it help your dog live longer, it will also make doggy kisses much more enjoyable! There are several easy options available to help keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy, including several natural and holistic alternatives.

The most important factor in dental health for your dog is diet. For years, various sources has spread this idea of dry kibble (even the special ‘dental kibble’ formulas sold by many veterinarians) providing teeth cleaning benefits. Imagine being told by your dentist that instead of brushing your teeth, all you need to do is simply eat some crunchy potato chips every day. Sounds absurd? Dry kibble crumbles and turn into mush in your dog’s mouth. Debris from this mush clings to your dog’s teeth and, left ignored, often turn into tartar and plaque. This is the same as if we ate baked goods and simply leave the mush leftovers sticking to our teeth.

While it may not be for everyone, the best option for overall well-being and maintaining good oral health is a raw food diet. Raw fed dogs usually have fresher breath and visibly whiter, cleaner teeth. This is due to the benefits of chewing and crushing bone without all of the preservatives, additives, and filler ingredients often found in commercial dry kibble. There is no kibble crumbles and debris to stick to the teeth. A raw diet will also not contain any unknown chemicals or oils that will help food particles bind to your dog’s teeth and promote the build-up of tartar and plaque that can inevitably lead to oral disease.

Border Collie dog enjoying a raw chicken quarter for dental health and teeth cleaning benefits.
All natural chews such as antler sheds and bully sticks can help maintain oral health and providing long-lasting chewing satisfaction for dogs and puppies.

Healthy Edible Dog Chews with Teeth Cleaning Benefits

Edible chews such as bully sticks and antler sheds are some of the best healthy chews to help keep your dog’s teeth clean! When your puppy sink their teeth into these durable chews, the gnawing action will scrape the teeth and stimulate the gums that will assist in breaking up any residue and food particles in the mouth. I personally recommend and use natural (and if possible, organic) edible products such as beef tendons, bully sticks, antler sheds, dried beef tranchea, and himalayan dog chews (yak cheese stick). These edible treats typically provide more than 5 minutes of chewing satisfaction, provide adequate teeth and gum stimulation, assist in breaking up stuck food particles inside the mouth, and usually don’t contain unnecessary ingredients.

BarkThink Tip: While it may not be a concern for everyone, I personally strive to avoid items that are made in China due to their history of containing harmful ingredients, frequent product recalls, and inconsistent quality standards.

Non-Edible Chews and Toys to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

Other great chews are durable dog toys that promote oral health and clean teeth such as Nylabone chew toys and Flossy Chews Rope Toys. Nylabone and Benebone chew toys are best known for their non-edible flavor infused nylon-based dog chews. The flavors encourages your dog to chew on the toy while tiny bristle-like shavings are raised that help clean their teeth. These small pieces (no larger than a small grain of rice) typically pass through the digestive system safely without causing any issues. Flossy Chews and Booda Fresh N Floss are rope toys that help clean and brush your dog’s teeth as they play and chews with them. Not to mention, rope toys do have the added benefit of being versatile interactive dog toys that can be used to exercise your energetic canine and deter destructive chewing behaviors!

Brushing your dog’s teeth and Natural Alternatives

The best way to maintain ideal overall dental health is to brush your dog’s teeth. All you need is a soft toothbrush or a finger brush and dental toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs. I personally recommend and use enzymatic, flavored toothpaste such as Petrodex Enzymatic Poultry Flavored Toothpaste and Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Vanilla-Mint Flavored Toothpaste. Most dogs, especially if conditioned from a young age, will readily enjoy the meat-flavored toothpastes. However, most pet owners will enjoy the nice pleasant smell of vanilla-mimsnt on those freshly cleaned doggy teeth!

BarkThink Reminder: Do NOT use regular human toothpaste for your dog–it is not designed to be swallowed. Most human toothpastes contains fluoride, which is extremely poisonous to dogs. Please make sure you use toothpaste formulated for dogs which is available at most pet stores.

For an all-natural option, consider the KissAble Vanilla and Tea Tree Oil Dog Toothpaste Kit. It’s VERY pleasant, made in the USA, and swallow safe! As a runner up, Petrodex also makes an all-natural peanut butter flavored dog toothpaste with no artificial preservatives or additives. For the holistic and DIY pet owner out there, try using extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil as a toothpaste. It is just one of the many amazing benefits of coconut oil for your dog.

Even bad dog teeth can be improved or restored back to health!

If your dog’s teeth are in need of some extra cleaning or in exceptionally bad condition, there are several all-natural dog teeth products that, in addition to some of the suggestions above, can help avoid expensive dental cleanings at the veterinarian’s office.

Over the years working with local pet rescues and veterinarian technicians, I’ve learned of some products that worked particularly well for removing tartar build up and plaque in dog’s teeth. PetzLife Oral Care Gel is a safe holistic, all natural alternative to achieving healthier teeth and gums—plus it’s made in the USA! All you need to do is simply apply a dime sized amount to your finger and massage the gel along your dog’s teeth. From there, as your dog lick his or her teeth, their saliva will help distribute the gel throughout the mouth and teeth. The gel will help break down built up tartar, plaque, and reduce stains. However, the use of a toothbrush or chew toy with bristles is recommended to help scrape and brush the loosened debris off the teeth.

Alternatively, Tropiclean Fresh Breath Additive is an effective teeth cleaning product made of natural green tea that is added to your dog’s water bowl. Veterinarian recommended, Tropiclean Fresh Breath helps fight periodontal disease, reduces plaque and tartar, and will provide about 12 hours of fresh breath benefits. My favorite has been PetzLife Oral Care Gel which I’ve successfully used on Spock, my Rat Terrier, and saw about a 50% improvement in the plaque build up from years of eating strictly dog kibble. Be sure to review and consider some of these products to determine what may work best for you and your pet and keep those canine teeth fresh and clean!

Before you look into expensive veterinarian dog teeth cleanings that often require anesthesia or drugs, consider some of these NATURAL, non-invasive do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions to improve your dog’s oral health and dental hygiene.


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